Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
What Happened to My Dog?
I learned about fire ants the hard way when I was walking my dog Kaiser one day, and a friend of mine stopped with his car. We were chit-chatting when Kaiser suddenly started rolling on the ground.
It looked a bit awkward for him to do at such an odd time, so I coaxed him to get back on his feet. Minutes later, he was on the ground again, this time jerking frantically as if something serious was going on.
As I looked at him this time I saw the source of his agitation: there were several fire ants right on the spot! My poor dog was being bitten all over by them! I moved him away and headed home to check him out.
It looked like most of the bites were on his legs, as the ants were trying to climb. I decided to keep a careful eye on him as I checked to see if I had some Benadryl on hand in case he was going to suffer an allergic reaction.
Shortly thereafter, he started licking at the bitten areas. A little lick here and there soon turned into an obsessive licking and biting that showed no signs of ending. I had to take action!
How Are Fire Ant Bites Treated?
Once I recognized the bites, I applied what I knew was a good remedy for pets bitten by bees, wasps, and all those nasty stinging creatures.
I made a paste of baking soda and water and applied it to the wound. To prevent my dog from licking up the baking soda, I applied a sock and made sure he didn't take it off. I also applied an ice pack covered in a towel every few minutes.
The baking soda and water paste worked pretty quickly. I think the fact that the baking soda was in my freezer (to keep odors away) provided further relief. Minutes later, he was resting peacefully, and he ignored the bites for the rest of the day. I am happy that there was no need to give the Benadryl as I am not too fond of giving medications to dogs.
However, in severe cases, a dosage of 0.5 to 2 mg of Benadryl per pound is a good remedy for dogs suffering from insect bites. As with administrating any medication over the counter, it is highly advisable to discuss this option with your veterinarian first.
Days later, Kaiser's legs were full of whitish-gray marks where he was bitten. These marks really took a long time to go away (several months). Kaiser only suffered from a mild reaction, but there have been reported cases of dogs dying of anaphylactic shock.
Usually, this occurs within minutes after being stung. Warning signs are difficulty breathing, collapse, and respiratory failure.
Here are a few tips:
- Never hose down a dog with fire ants. The ants will only panic and bite down harder.
- Keep an eye on the bite. If the area swells up, this may indicate a possible infection that requires treatment.
- Try to limit your dog biting at the area. Fire ant bites seem to be painful at first and terribly itchy afterward. Apply ice packs and a baking soda and water paste to give relief. If needed, invest in an Elizabethan collar.
- Always keep Benadryl on hand, especially for signs of allergic reactions.
- Use common sense and call your vet promptly if something does not look right.
- Contact an exterminator should you see fire ants in your yard.
Three months later, Kaiser still had marks on his leg. It took a long time for them to disappear completely. In the meantime, I made sure my dogs stayed away from these nasty creatures!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli
Kaviya varshini on February 11, 2019:
I don't no what happened to my dog it has red marks and itches at that place I think it's is an ants bites but I don't no what trouble on his body
Megan Sneith on September 12, 2018:
My five month old rotty was bitten yesterday bybred fire ants in my yard first time I've seen them I hurry up and knock them off of her when we got back to my door I seen one more on her head knocked that sucker off too. got in the house I checked her fur and her belly and I found one or two bites..we gave her a benadryl. She licked a few times. Today she is fine. Thank goodness. Thats my baby
Sally on July 11, 2017:
My dog got bite yesterday by fire ants. He came running to me and I seen him with ants on his legs and head. I grab him up and put him in the pool and washed the ants off him I got one bite but my poor baby got bite a lot. He seem to be fine. He is running around and playing but I am going to call vet tomorrow just to be safe.
Yvonne on June 25, 2017:
Please help! !! My chihuahua of 15 years has been bitten by a maroon red ant, tried to mix some baking soda with water into paste but what else can I do
Julie on January 12, 2017:
I gave my dog Benadryl because I didn't know it fit him in his mouth his face is still swelling and I don't know how to treat it it was a Texas firing Aunt where I live at Marians are not on call 24 hours a day seven days a week what should I do
will on January 03, 2017:
Thanks for this article I I have always watched for ants my dog would find them I recently moved and the terrain is different and they are hard to see I noticed the rolling at awkward times yesterday tonight she licked one from her paw thank you for the helpful information very very grateful.
Nancy's on October 19, 2016:
My lab and I got into fire ants. I got them off and poured white vinegar on both of us and all the bites cleared up no scratching or bite spots left. Works great!!
jo ann on July 09, 2016:
My dog chewed on her fire ant bites till she made 4 places that are about as big as a quarter on her side and back .....I have used ivory soap and water...benadryl triple antibiotic in a tube they are drying up...but how long does it take for them to heal....I had to shave her back ....she likes to role on the grass...no more of that...when I found them they were puss filled....
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 01, 2016:
Nancy, glad to hear it helped, we had to use the cold paste of baking soda and water just a day ago due to those pesky fire ants.
Nancy on May 01, 2016:
My dog Pixie scratches all the time, but this time it seemed worse. I picked her up and my jaw dropped, she was covered in bites all over her little body. I immediately washed her off with cool water, gave her a Benadryl and made the paste of Baking Soda & cold water...it's a miracle, it worked and all of her huge welts have gone down. Wow, thank you for the info about the baking soda & water paste it saved us a trip to the emergency vet on a Sunday.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 28, 2015:
Sorry to hear about your dog's encounter with fire ants, those stinkers hurt! My dog got bit by a fire ant again today, and had to go back to this hub to remember exactly what I did to make him feel better. The ant was holding tight on his paw this time. He's now with a sock on his paw to keep the baking soda and water paste in place. I'll be watching him closely. Boy, I hate these critters!
Kayley on March 07, 2015:
My girl Nugget and I are from Michigan and we decided to take a road trip. We were in New Mexico, Nugget was running freely in the desert while I set up our tent when I noticed her frantically licking her paws. I called her over and got her under the light and saw about 10 of these bad boys latched on in between her toes. I had no idea what to do, we don't have fire ants like this in Michigan. I knocked them off with a stick and gave her a high dose of Benadryl. Poor thing slept on her back
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 15, 2012:
Sounds like it burns, poor girl! What type of medicine are you trying to put? Any way you can distract her with a stuffed Kong, some food, while you apply a paste of baking soda and water? If it does not help, you many need to get some help. Your vet can help you and possibly prescribe some Benadryl or cortisone and antibiotics to give relief.
Princess Misty bell on June 15, 2012:
I have a small dog she is 3 month old and i assume she was bitten by fire ants when i put medicine on her wounds she moves as if she is in serious pain what should i do!!!!!!!!
Shaunna on September 15, 2011:
I have a small dog she got bit on foot she won't walk on it what how much benadrly should I give her she about 5 lbs if that... She got into fire auts we beach so yeah no need to say more
Katherine on September 05, 2011:
Thanks, I never even thought of fire ants... I assumed my dog was stung, or bitten by a spider. Fire ants make sense as she is continually chewing (itching) several spots... one of which I shaved. The area is inflamed and red/ bumpy. She was close to unconscious within a half hour, and came to after a ten ml dose of antihistamine. I'll try baking soda and steriod cream.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 28, 2011:
Could be fire ants but also fleas, allergic reactions to food or products used in the yard. It is hard to tell, are they itchy?
TheEpicJourney from Fairfield, Ohio on August 23, 2011:
Very very good info here! I do a lot of camping with my dog Zoe and I need to know this info. Especially that Benedryl can be given to dogs and how much! Thanks for the article!
garrettmaria74 on July 30, 2011:
my puppy is 3 months old, he got bit by fire ants all over and his eyes swelled badly, his belly was all bit up.
i had 25mg benadryl, I broke it in 4 pies and gave him one small piece, he was a lot better after, the swelling went down within the hour.
camdjohnston12 on July 28, 2011:
Useful hub and awesome!
jorja kick from southeast georgia on April 22, 2011:
Great hub,as are all i have read you have posted..
I am of course a dog person..lol
I found it useful and a good read..
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 15, 2011:
Hello, answered you on the signs your dog is pregnant hub about this.
kirstypompom on April 15, 2011:
i would like to purchace a dog first aid kit where can i get one complete x
Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on March 01, 2011:
I'm glad to know benadryl can be given to dogs. I, myself, am highly allergic to fire ants and carry an EPI pen because of it. Thanks for the informative hub.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 12, 2011:
I find it difficult to be fire ants as they sting terrible and would cause your dog to move and try to get them off. Try to get them off and keep your dog indoors until the wound heals. I am not sure why the ants are interested in this wound so much.
aliana on February 12, 2011:
my dog's wound have a lot of ants,i don't know why the red ants are in the wound...is my dog has a diabitis.....he didn't even bother if the ants is in his wound....what can i do...tnx
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 30, 2010:
Nola,Thank you for sharing this happy ending story, one extra reason to keep an eye on our pets and encounters with dangerous critters!
nola on December 30, 2010:
We have a 3 pound yorkie that was bit by a fire ant while we were travelling (stopped at a gas station for a fill up). Within 3 minutes, he was limp, unresponsive, had a cold, white tongue and gums, was lock jaw and lifeless. His little body had already began the process of "expression" (vomiting, etc.) which the vet says happens right before dying. By the grace of God (or whoever you believe is watching over you) there was a lady in the gas station that told us there was an emergency vet at the next interstate exit. Within 10 minutes we had him there and they saved his life. A half hour or so later, we got to see him... wagging tale, running and barking like nothing happened! So while we were completely tramatized, he fortunately made a full recovery. We DO NOT EVER travel without Benedryl and knowledge of where the closest emergency vet is! We asked about getting an EPI Pen but they do not make one small enough for his weight. So, he gets to hold his bladder on road trips now! LOL I wanted to share this story so that everyone is aware of how quickly one bite can affect an animal. BTW... only 1 bite mark was found on his body and it was right between his chest and throat.
JOsh on November 14, 2010:
My Jack Russel Terrier has been bitten all over her stomach and legs... I'm about to try the baking soda paste and i hope it works :)
Pest Inspection Gold Coast on October 09, 2010:
Benadryl of course works good in conditions where external treatment fails. Of course overdose of it does prove to be bad in the long run.
wolfpack5 from Alberta Canada on March 21, 2010:
Fire ants are very bad to deal with, I lived in Newnan Ga for 18 years so I know what im talking about. Now I live in Alberta Canada and I don't miss them at all :)
Mary on September 20, 2009:
Our Boykin Spaniel sat near a fire ant mound and was bitten all over his stomach,legs, privates and even on his face near his eyes. Within seconds he started vomiting and having issues breathing. He laid down and his gums and tongue turned white, pupils dialated and he became unresponsive. We carry a first aid kit for the dogs and thank god we had benadryl. We managed to get the benadryl in him and after about 20 minutes his breathing and gums started to return to normal. He fully recovered but the experience was tramatic for us to see our beloved dog close to death. I truly believe if it had not been for the benadryl he would have died. We put cortizone cream on the bites and it helped reduce the swelling also. It worries me to think that something like this could happen so fast and without warning. Watch your animals closely. We are going to ask our vet about getting an epi pen since he had such a bad reaction to the ant bites.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 21, 2009:
Sounds like an allergic reaction! According to:
'Facial swelling associated with allergic reaction is often associated with insect stings and usually occurs during warm weather. The swelling is often throughout the entire head and is non-painful.''
'' For allergic reactions, diphenhydramine and/or corticosteroids are used.''
''There is little home care for facial swelling. If the cause is due to an allergic reaction, oral diphenhydramine may be used initially but is often not effective.''
Diphenydramine is plain Benadryl. It may help, but if the allergic reaction is severe she may need emergency treatment with epinephrine.
The dose most veterinarians use of Benadryl is 1 mg per pound. Some benadryl comes as 25 or 50 mg pills or as a 12.5 mg/ml liquid. So a 25-pound dog would get 25 mg. For more information about dealing with allergic reactions – go to Allergic Reaction from an Unknown Cause in Dogs.
This is a common emergency. Most reactions are very mild.
Keep the number to your veterinarian or local emergency clinic handy. If you see signs of a reaction – call your vet immediately. Keep benadryl in your dogs "Medicine cabinet".
Hope these links help, hope all goes well.
dog lover:] on July 21, 2009:
wut if her face swells cuz they bit her face??
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 23, 2009:
Sorry if it was not clear, I will edit this article tonight, the paste of baking soda and water will go on the wound. Best wishes!
Camille on March 23, 2009:
my dog has, what i believe to be a red ant bite, its just in his paw and there is only one mark, its swollen and red, he keeps biting it and licking it like if there is no tomorrow, i tried the ice thing and it didn't seem to work and i don't understang what my dog is supposed to with the baking soda, is he supposed to eat it, wear it. or what?